12 Dec 2013

Satellite to deliver cheap high-speed internet to Pacific

5:26 pm on 12 December 2013

It's believed advanced satellite technology, currently being designed to deliver affordable broadband to the Pacific by the end of 2016, could have a big impact on those economies.

Kacific Broadband Satellites, a Singapore based company, has announced plans to launch a satellite to provide internet connectivity over the Pacific Islands region.

The chief executive, Christian Patouraux, says the high powered signal will overcome traditional challenges posed by widely spread populations separated by large ocean expanses.

He told Bridget Tunnicliffe there are large pools of internet users in parts of the Pacific which aren't tapped into.

CHRISTIAN PATOURAUX: There are a lot of users who basically are not using the internet because they either don't have access, that simple, they are either too far away on remote atolls and there is simply no internet for them. I learned in a recent trip in the islands sometimes they have to travel over expanses of water to reach another island that is connected to go and access their email and then return home where they don't have connectivity. So that's the residential aspect. But then you have the whole public service aspect, the enterprise aspect of the connectivity market. Today there's a substantial drive from the government to connect the government departments, the schools, the education departments, the hospitals, the clinics and there is in the Pacific a lot of tourists. And there's a lot of hotels that need to be connected, as well, so all in all there's a whole unaddressed demand of customers in the islands that needs to be addressed. And it's very challenging with the current technology that is deployed.

BRIDGET TUNNICLIFFE: What kind of impact could improved broadband access have on these economies?

CHRISTIAN PATOURAUX: Well, from some reports from the World Bank, for instance, it could have a significant impact on the GDP of those countries. It could increase the GDP by 1.3% for every 10% of internet penetration among the population. So that can actually translate into quite a bit of additional wealth for those countries that would itself cover the cost of our deployment. So at this stage many of those nations don't even have 5% of internet penetration because there's so many hurdles that prevent it from being deployed. So what the World Bank believes is that as soon as you reach 10% of the population using internet then you have a direct impact on the economy and that is all go and I think it's totally achievable and it's been achieved in some Middle Eastern countries, for instance with the same type of satellite bringing cheap connectivity and thereby reaching a high penetration of internet and therefore having a direct impact on the GDP.

Christian Patouraux says he has just returned from a trip to Melanesia where governments have responded favourably to the plan.